Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks

by Erica Greenwold Reisen

KayLynn Design Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks. Learn how to take traditional quilt blocks and infuse a modern influence.

First to introduce myself, I am Erica, Kathryn's daughter and website czar of KayLynn Designs. I am trained as a Fashion Designer, but have dabbled my whole life in quilting and other textile arts. Being Kathryn's daughter meant that I was sewing by time I was 5 years old and accompanied her to many quilt shows, appraisals, and guild meetings. Even though my mom and I share a love of textiles and sewing, we often have very different opinions about aesthetics, colors, fabric choices, etc... As a kid and teen, I was more interested in making garments and costume designs than I was with quilting. I think this is in part because I didn't feel the connection to traditional quilting like my mom did.   Though, in the early 2000's, a new trend in quilt design began taking shape. One which ultimately piqued my interest and would bring me back to the art of quilting.

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts with Traditional Blocks - "Sol" by Kathryn Greenwold

Modern Quilting is characterized by use of bright colors and prints, high contrast, solid neutral backgrounds, minimalism, and asymmetry. Many utilize traditional blocks in atypical arrangements and color pairings. Often, quilters will showcase complicated, intricate stitch-work over the neutral backgrounds.

Modern Quilting has grown in popularity largely because of social media and blogs, reaching a new generation of quilters that didn't necessarily grow up knowing how to sew or learning about traditional quilts.  You can find beautiful examples of Modern Quilting all over Instagram and Pinterest. Like modern art, Modern Quilting uses minimalism and space to communicate emotions and ideas. Younger quilters (Gen Y and the Millennials) are drawn to this style because it mirrors many elements of our values, lifestyle, fashion, interior design, architecture, etc... It is also a relatively easy style of quilting to learn, many modern quilts use simple piecing techniques such as strip-piecing or Half-Square Triangles (get your FREE Half-Square Triangle Tutorial here!).  As artists and makers, we are drawn to work that we can obsess over and lose ourselves in, but that in the end is both beautiful and functional.

KayLynn Designs' two books, Amish Shadows, Light Reflected and Roads to Everywhere, Ladders to Heaven both include designs that work marvelously as Modern Quilts.

Foundations

This quilt uses the traditional Amish Shadows block in a high contrast magenta-red ombre made from 4 tone-on-tone fabrics from Jinny Beyer set on a gray background. Kathryn drew inspiration from a crumbled building we came across on a hike when I was a child, near Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks. The remains of this woodland homestead are echoed in the asymmetrical and off-kilter placement of the blocks. Foundations invokes the Modern style through these elements. This quilt was created as a collaboration,  designed & quilted by Kathryn, and pieced by Lynn.

Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks Blog Post from KayLynn Design. "Foundations" from the book, Amish Shadows, Light. Reflected Designed & Made by Kathryn Greenwold & Lynn Reynolds Makrin
Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks Blog Post from KayLynn Design. "Foundations" from the book, Amish Shadows, Light. Reflected Designed & Made by Kathryn Greenwold & Lynn Reynolds Makrin

Catskill Mountainscape

Also featured in Amish Shadows, Light Reflected, Catskill Mountainscape was designed with modern influences, and also draws inspiration from traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e paintings. Important elements for both styles are the use of positive and negative space to create "Floating World" effect signature to Ukiyo-e.  Catskill Mountainscape is a perfect example of a tradititional block and inspiration being used in an innovative new style. The design is by Kathryn, and the quilt itself was made by Mary McNamara.

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Patterns - "Catskill Mountainscape" Designed by Kathryn Greenwold, Pieced & Quilted by Mary McNamara
KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Patterns - "Catskill Mountainscape" Designed by Kathryn Greenwold, Pieced & Quilted by Mary McNamara

X Marks the Spot

This quilt was featured in Roads to Everywhere, Ladders to Heaven. What makes this a truly modern quilt is the application of pop colors set against a dark background. This quilt was made with a strip pack and layer cake from the same line of polka dot fabrics and was intentionally designed to work with the precut sets.

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - "X Marks the Spot" by Kathryn Greenwold. Pattern Available in the KayLynn Designs Shop
KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - "X Marks the Spot" by Kathryn Greenwold. Pattern Available in the KayLynn Designs Shop

Tile

Tile is a Mondrian inspired Modern Quilt which uses a simple rectangle and strip based pattern which you can download here! Designed & made by Kathryn, this quilt channels mod style and mid-century modern elements.

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - "Tile" by Kathryn Greenwold
KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - "Tile" by Kathryn Greenwold

Design Your Own Modern Quilt

As I mentioned before, it is not too difficult to get started with Modern Quilting. If you have never quilted before or you just like some guidelines, grab a pattern or one of the KayLynn Designs' books. When choosing fabrics, go bold and high-contrast. Choose a neutral for your background, grays, white, ivory, or black are the usual suspects. For your colors, some options to consider are ombre of one color family, brights & neons, or go full-rainbow!

KayLynn Designs Blog - Modern Quilts from Traditional Blocks - Close up of a block by Erica Greenwold Reisen

When I was starting my own Modern Quilt, using the Field & Fallow design from Amish Shadows, Light Reflected, I opted for a cool gray solid for my back ground and 4 shades of teal for my ombre. For the quilting, I replicated the design from the lightest fabric by making a paper hexagon template to trace with chalk.

The color story and design of this quilt are inspired by two of my favorite shows, The X-Files and Twin Peaks. Which I realize is probably a little strange! I have yet to finish this quilt, but when I do, I will definitely share it on the KayLynn Designs Facebook Page!

I hope that you are feeling inspired to go out and start your own Modern Quilt! If you need more inspiration, check out The Modern Quilt Guild's website and Instagram, and the Me + You Instagram! If you use a KayLynn Designs pattern for your own Modern Quilt, be sure to share photos of it in the comments or on our Facebook Page! We love to see what people come up with! Happy Sewing!